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Celebrating a mother and son

Kam King
December 03, 2014

Military service earns a Buckeye the opportunity to honor his mother’s memory

“Live life to the fullest and have no regrets” is the lasting legacy that Lieutenant Colonel Annie Ruth Munn left her son.

Karleton J. Munn lost his mother, and his closest friend, unexpectedly on July 8, 2010, to pulmonary fibrosis. She had battled the disease that damages lung tissue, making her progressively more short of breath, for many years. He had been with her for every step of the difficult journey.

“The loss of my mother has been the most difficult challenge that I’ve had to overcome,” he said. “She knew me better than anyone else in the world. I’m still trying to fill the gap from that loss.”

The higher education and student affairs PhD student enjoys reminiscing about the exciting times he shared with his mother.

His favorite memories include traveling together during his mother’s service as a nurse in the United States Army. Her commitment to country took the duo to military installations in Georgia, California, Maryland, Texas, Hawaii and even Germany.

As a military dependent, Munn’s favorite ‘temporary home’ was definitely Germany. He saw the symbol of the Cold War, the Berlin Wall, fall in 1989 and the unification of east and west Germany.

“It’s amazing to witness history even though at the time I didn’t fully understand the totality of it all.”

Munn fondly remembers the beautiful sights of Hawaii on the island of Oahu.

“From age 7 until I was 12, we lived in Pearl City. We watched majestic sunsets from our lanai, or porch, right on Pearl Harbor,” he said. “Our travels were really instrumental in understanding the world around me.”

Service to all mankind

Those travels with his mother also led Munn to his own adventures traveling the nation while serving our country.

From 1996 to 1999, Munn, an airman first class, was an electronics technician in the United States Air Force. Based in Utah, he maintained satellite and point-to-point communications networks and systems.

“It was an eye-opening experience. It really taught me that the world is so much bigger than just me,” he said. “My service also helped me feel closer to my mother.”

Honoring Annie’s legacy also led to Munn finding his home at The Ohio State University. The Atlanta, Georgia, native still remembers his mother’s very distinct advice about college.

“As a young child, my mom instilled the value of education in me by, first and foremost, having her own bachelor’s and graduate degrees in nursing,” he said. “It wasn’t a matter of if I would go to college but, rather, when I would go to college.”

At Ohio State, Munn has found his support system: close friends, influential professors, advisors and mentors.

After traveling 1,800 miles from Salt Lake City, Utah, it was his close social networks that helped him thrive at such a large university and that led to his current doctoral research.

He aims to answer how college students, in general, and adult learners, specifically, activate and utilize their social and cultural support networks to help them navigate and persist in college.

Munn, an eternal optimist and problem-solver, thanks Ohio State for all of the opportunities he has been granted.

“But for Ohio State, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to pursue my education, a PhD, full time. That’s something that I haven’t been able to do before, even in my undergraduate and master’s programs.”

The Elizabeth Moffatt Williams Scholarship also granted Munn a unique opportunity. To honor his wife and EHE alumna Elizabeth on their 50th wedding anniversary, Gerald Williams, a Marine, chose to fund the education of veterans through a scholarship.

“The words ‘thank you’ can’t really express the gratitude that I feel toward my scholarship donors,” he said. “Their investment has compelled me to invest in others.

“They have been able to help me so much in my academic career and even beyond that. The greatest impact we can make to the world is the investment in others and their dreams even if we are unable to pursue our own,” Munn said.

Munn knows that the current path he’s on would make his mother proud.

“While I’ll never be able to fully repay my mother for the many sacrifices she made, I know I was there for her when she needed me most.”